More cats are donning a secure harness and leash and safely going outside to explore the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. Is your cat game for an adventure?
An outdoor cat adventure is very different from taking a dog for a walk. While cats can be trained to walk well on leash, big distances are not involved; a daily excursion is more of a sniffari with lots of stops to smell flowers, nibble grass, roll around, and zone out in a sunny or shady spot. It’s important to remember you are on cat time. It’s a very different clock. Your cat is not going to come back panting from exhaustion from pounding the pavement. Instead, an outing is a leisurely but very stimulating exercise that offers quality time well spent together.
The Right Gear
The main reason many cat parents haven’t tried taking their cat outside is that they are scared that their beloved feline may wriggle out of its collar and escape. It’s a very valid fear. Like any outdoor activity, it’s essential to have the right gear. And, for the adventurous feline, this means a very secure harness that is escape-proof. The Sleepypod Martingale Cat Harness was designed with feline escape artists in mind. It’s structured from a soft and breathable triple layer mesh and the design incorporates a gentle martingale cinching feature to help prevent escape from the harness. It’s further adjustable at both neck and chest for added comfort and security, and hence, peace of mind. Simply add a lightweight six-foot leash and you are good to go.
Well, not quite; we’re talking a cat adventure here. First, there’s a very easy training step involved.
Learning How to Wear the Harness-Leash Combo
Because cats have to discover everything for themselves (no cat parent is ever allowed to suggest something), the answer is to leave the harness lying around the home like some discarded, useless object. Because you appear not to be interested in it, your cat will be all over it, and, will probably sniff it out and even lie down on it for a manicure. This is progress!
After a few days of leaving it lying around, add the leash. This will prompt further feline investigation. Perfect. Things are going really well. Now put the harness on… Your cat will probably be horrified, lie down, and refuse to move.
This is where treats come into play. Place them just out of reach with bigger and bigger spaces in between. And before kitty realizes it, she will be walking on a leash and being rewarded as if she’s just taught you something new.
Give yourself a silent pat on the back. But, don’t get too carried away. Patience is key here along with a gentle reminder that Rome was obviously built on cat time. So do this for a few days.
The Personality Evaluation
Finally, before you head for the front door, your cat will first need a personality evaluation. Not every cat will enjoy an outdoor adventure. How she reacted to her training will give you a clue. But generally, very skittish and scaredy cats are probably the most comfortable up a nice tall indoor cat tree and will contently watch the world go by from there. They are too cautious to venture beyond the front door. Don’t push it. It’s not ever going to be fun for either of you.
Xenophobia is a fear or hatred of anything strange or foreign. If this fearful behavior is part of the cat’s genetic make-up or the result of kittenhood experiences, she won’t enjoy outings either. How do you know? A xenophobic cat is one that will hide when a stranger comes into the home and will not come out until well after the company has left. She doesn’t enjoy being held or petted and is easily disturbed by any environmental changes.
However, if your cat is curious, super friendly, happily greets strangers, is a total clown, and generally appears unafraid, you have found your outdoor adventure partner.
Some Neighborhood Reconnaissance
It’s important to scout your outdoor surroundings and be well versed when neighborhood dogs take their walks. Even the bravest cat won’t want to meet an over-boisterous dog on the first outing. Be equally cognizant of the wildlife in your area such as coyotes and large birds of prey.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go
If you have a garden, that is probably as far as you need to go. Cats, if they are allowed outside on their own, will often go and hang out under a bush and watch insects, butterflies, and birds from this vantage point. It’s the sounds of nature as well as sightings of birds and butterflies that are all part of the outdoor experience. To replicate this, make yourself comfortable in a garden chair with a book and let your feline explore the area around you on her leash. In lieu of a private garden, try a public park. Consider a visit to grandma’s house or a good friend who loves cats but doesn’t have one. (Visiting other cats is another story!) And, if your cat walks really well on a leash, you both may enjoy a stroll around an indoor or outdoor mall. Add outdoor markets and art walks. The world could be your cat’s oyster.
If you need to drive to an adventure destination, be sure that your kitty is well-secured in a crash-tested and certified carrier like the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed that offers safety and security on the road.
If you go on outings often enough, you may find your feline explorer at the front door waiting for you and meowing that she’s ready to go. That’s your cue to make outdoor adventures a daily event.
Sandy Robins is an awarding-winning multi-media pet lifestyle expert and writer, whose work focuses on ways to enhance the human-animal bond. She has authored four cat books including The Original Cat Bible and Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat. www.Sandyrobinsonline.com